Fight continues to have South Shields’ Temple Park recognised as war memorial

“It needs to be resolved.”

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 6:48 am
Temple Memorial Park gifted to the people of South Tyneside awarness

Council chiefs have come under fire from a campaigner who has vowed to continue his long fight to have a South Tyneside Park recognised as a war memorial.

Ronnie Mews was one of a group of protestors instrumental in forcing South Tyneside Council to make a u-turn on building a school on Temple Park, in 2006.

Since then, the pensioner from Souths Shields has been campaigning to have the land recognised by the council by either replacing or adding a plaque with wording to reflect its status.

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Mr Mews already has the backing of the North East War Memorials Project, which says Temple Park, gifted to the people of South Shields for their efforts during the Second World War, is a war memorial.

Despite his best efforts, council chiefs have not budged on having a new plaque installed previously citing that putting a new plaque in place would be a “costly exercise.”

However, Mr Mews is adamant future generations have a right to know the history of the land and that it should be displayed within the park grounds.

He has now escalated a complaint to the council in a bid to get the issue resolved once and for all.

Mr Mews said: “The plaque misleads people into believing Temple Park is solely a memorial to Archbishop Temple. It is patently obvious people will generally be unaware of the fact, which is not recorded on the official plaque, that it is in fact a war memorial, in recognition of wartime service by the people of South Shields.

“In my involvement in more than one high-profile campaign to stop the council building over Temple Park, the other volunteers I have met were always surprised to find out that the gift was given as a memorial to wartime service and that it was only named in memory of Archbishop Temple.

“This has dragged on for more than a decade now and it needs to be resolved. But for some reason, the council do not want to make known that the land is a war memorial and the reason why it is.

“The information is on the council’s website but it needs to be in the park for all to see.”

The current plaque simply states it was named in memory of William Temple Archbishop of Canterbury when the land was gifted to the borough by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners but makes no mention that it is also in tribute to the war efforts of people in South Shields.

There is a covenant on the land - as part of the gift - saying it should be maintained as an open space. The restriction was adjusted in the early 1970s to allow the building of Temple Park Leisure Centre.

A spokesperson for South Tyneside Council said: “We have received a complaint regarding this matter and are currently looking into the issues raised. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage.”

Council minutes dating back to 1944 state: “The Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England had offered to make a gift to the town of a large open space for the use of the public in perpetuity.

“They also express the hope that possession of the park may be regarded in the borough as a tribute by the Commissioners to the part which the citizens of South Shields have played during war-time in the service of their country.

“It is a condition of the gift the land should be maintained as an open space for the use of the public in perpetuity and that no buildings should be allowed on it except communal buildings of buildings designed to promote the public’s enjoyment of the park.”

The minutes also recorded: “The commissioners desired the park should be given an appropriate name in recognition of their gift and have been pleased to approve of its being named the “The Temple Memorial Park” in memory of the late Archbishop Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was well known for his deep interest in social welfare.”

The minutes go on: “RESOLVED - the council be recommended to accept the offer of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on the terms outlined above and to place on record the warm appreciation of the council and of the townspeople for the Commissioner’s most generous gift and of the spirit of goodwill towards South Shields which it exemplifies.”